The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Henrietta Mellett

MELLETT, Henrietta

Henrietta Mellett was born in County Galway on 4th November 1877, the eleventh of the twelve children of John Mellett and Eliza Conway. John Mellett was a ‘Scripture Reader’, part of the large workforce of the Irish Church Missions, first established in 1846, and strongest in the West of Ireland and particularly in Connemara. The purpose of the Missions was to convert Catholics to the Protestant faith and was achieved largely through the provision of food and education, alongside proselytizing. John and Eliza were married in 1855 in Kilcummin parish, Oughterard, Co Galway. Their first children were born before civil registration in 1864, so it is not known where John was working, or indeed if he was a Scripture Reader at that stage. Four children were born between 1868 and 1872 in the townland of Drimcaggy, a mountainous area west of Lough Mask in County Mayo, badly affected during the Famine. The final three children, including Henrietta, were born between 1875 and 1881 in the townland of Ballynew in the parish of Ballynakill, on the western extremity of Connemara.

In 1892 Margaret Mellett, then aged thirty, went to Morocco with the North African Mission, while her sister Susan, twenty-three, was the first unmarried woman missionary sent by the Anglican Church to the Yukon. Susan had had experience teaching in the ‘Ragged Schools’, associated with the Irish Church Mission and also apparently bore “the cold manfully”. Another sister, Delia Jane, went to New Zealand where she married in 1905, while one of the older sons, Patrick, was a teacher in Dublin. The youngest, Walter, fought in WW1 and later settled in Canada. Some time before 1901 the family moved to the village of Roundstone where they ran a hotel, Ivy House, while John remained as a Scripture Reader. He died in Roundstone in 1911, aged eighty-one, while Eliza died in 1915 aged seventy-seven.

In 1908 Henrietta travelled to Canada with her sister Susan and her husband and child. There, in London, Ontario, she graduated as a nurse from the Victoria General Hospital School in 1912. In 1915 she travelled to England where, in May, she enrolled with the British Red Cross as a V.A.D. nurse and was posted to Egypt until November 1916 and then to Tunbridge Wells in England. In January 1918 Henrietta enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps and was sent to the 15th Canadian Hospital at ‘Cliveden’, Taplow, Buckinghamshire.

Henrietta was on board RMS Leinster on 10 October 1918, probably returning to England from leave with her family, then living in Dublin. She did not survive the sinking but her body was recovered and she was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery, beside her brother Patrick.She is remembered on the Commonwealth War Graves, the Victoria Nursing School memorial, the Women of the Empire memorial in York Minster and on the Ireland Memorial Record.



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